Inverted Rows: Muscles Worked, Benefits, and How To – Healthline

Are you looking to increase back, shoulder, and arm strength but not ready for a vertical pullup? Consider the “down under” version, otherwise known as the Australian pullup, or inverted row.
Pullups are a challenging upper body exercise that requires an exceptional amount of muscle strength. This can make them intimidating for a lot of people.
The good news? The inverted row puts your body in a horizontal position, making it easier to perform. It also works the back muscles from a different angle and improves scapular retraction, which is a critical skill in the vertical pullup.
You can add inverted rows to your workout routine as a preparatory exercise for a traditional pullup or as a stand-alone.
If you’re curious how to incorporate the inverted row into your workouts, read on to learn about the benefits, how to do it, muscles worked, and common mistakes.
The inverted row is another name for bodyweight rows. It’s also known as an Australian pullup. We’re not exactly sure where that name comes from, but it could have something to do with your body placement when performing the move, which is “down under” the bar.
To get a better idea of this move, picture yourself in a pushup position and then turn over. Instead of your hands on the ground, your arms stay extended, and you grasp the bar above you.
To do an inverted row, you’ll put your body in a horizontal body position, which is different from a traditional pullup performed with your body in a vertical position.
If you’ve never been under the bar, then it’s time to get horizontal. Here are some reasons to try the inverted row:
Whether you’re new to pullups or still trying to get the hang of them, starting with an inverted row can help build upper body strength without compromising your form.
Your biceps play a minor role when doing a traditional pullup or chinup. But when you initiate the pull part of the inverted row, you’ll feel a greater emphasis on these arm muscles.
You can incorporate inverted rows into a full-body or upper body workout. They also work well as part of a super-set combination: for example, one set of inverted rows followed by one set of pushups and repeat.
A traditional or vertical pullup doesn’t require a lot of effort from your lower body. However, to perform an inverted row, you need to engage the glutes and hamstrings isometrically throughout the entire movement.
Grip strength is an important health indicator, but unfortunately, it reduces as we age (1). Adding exercises like the inverted row, which activates the forearm muscles, can improve overall grip strength.
Scapular retraction is the backward rotation of the scapula (shoulder blades) toward the spine (2). This helps stabilizes the shoulder joint.
To improve scapular retraction, you need to focus on the rhomboid muscles, something the inverted row does more than a traditional pullup.
Inverted rows are an excellent addition to a full-body workout. Overall, they can improve upper body strength and grip strength, recruit the glutes and hamstrings, and give your biceps a boost.
You can do an inverted row exercise at the gym or at home.
At the gym, look for the squat rack or a Smith machine. You can use the bar with either piece of equipment or attach a set of rings to a stable structure above you. The rings are more advanced, so hold off on using them until you have mastered the bar.
If you have access to TRX suspension straps, you can perform an inverted row (TRX row) using that equipment. To perform this move safely at home, you need to have a bar setup or a fixed object like a railing at the right height.
You can use a squat rack or Smith machine setup to perform an inverted row. For a challenge, consider using rings instead of a bar.
The primary muscles involved in the inverted row include:
When performing this move, you’ll primarily target the back and shoulder muscles, such as the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rear deltoids. However, the biceps and core also play a significant role in pulling your body toward the bar.
Once you find the right bar height and dial in your form, the inverted row is a relatively simple move to perform. That said, there are some common mistakes to be aware of:
Some common mistakes include not positioning the bar correctly, using a grip that is too wide or too narrow, not engaging the core and glutes, and continuing to do the exercise with pain in other parts of the body.
The inverted row is an excellent exercise to incorporate into a full-body or upper body workout. If you’re new to pullups or can’t do a vertical pullup, consider starting with this exercise.
Strict form is critical when performing an inverted row. If you have any questions about how to do this move, consider working with a certified personal trainer or physical therapist.
After seeing the strength you gain from this exercise, you may be making a point to get under the bar more often.
Last medically reviewed on April 20, 2021